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President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the role played by traditional leaders in the development of their communities.

 “The institution of traditional leadership continues to play an important role in the lives of millions of people around our country, especially in rural areas. Traditional leaders support and drive development in their communities,” said the President in his weekly newsletter on Monday.

The President said that in the last few months, the country has bid farewell to two respected traditional monarchs with the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu and Kgoshikgolo Thulare Thulare III.

“With their passing, we have lost champions of the preservation of our heritage, and revered custodians of the histories of their respective peoples.
“At the same time, they were vital players in rural development, and were committed to driving programmes to uplift the material conditions of their people,” said the President.

President Ramaphosa said the restoration of the integrity and legitimacy of traditional leadership in line with indigenous law and customs and subject to the Constitution of the Republic, was a priority of the new government at the advent of democracy in 1994.

Last week the President participated in the debate on the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders.
“What was particularly refreshing about the robust engagement was that traditional leadership has a keen appreciation of the difficult economic conditions facing our country, and want to be part of addressing the many challenges of underdevelopment and poverty in their areas.”

This as the President has reiterated that South Africa’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic must be inclusive, and that nobody must be left behind.
“The success of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan rests on forging strong partnerships between not just government, business and labour, but also with traditional leadership and other societal formations,” he said.

Traditional leaders at the debate highlighted that they do not want to be dependent on handouts or for their communities to perpetually look to government for financial assistance.

Centres of economic activity
“They want to be provided with the necessary support, training and enabling environment to allow rural communities to be self-sufficient. They want to bridge the urban-rural divide in access to government services and private sector resources.”

In addition, traditional leaders would like to see rural areas becoming centres of economic activity, industry and employment opportunity.

This said the President, mirrors the aspirations of the District Development Model, which was launched in 2019.

At the same time, the President noted that traditional leaders are well positioned to ensure that district plans are informed by and respond to the real needs of communities and that they reflect the lived reality in rural areas.

He said just as the development model supports localised programmes that focus on the needs, strengths and opportunities in specific areas, traditional leaders have pioneered their own approach to local economic development.

 “They have developed the InvestRural Masterplan, which was launched in North West last month. It is greatly encouraging that traditional leaders have rallied behind the plan and want to work with local authorities to ensure it is a success.”

At last week’s debate a number of participants outlined economic plans that are already in advanced stages of development ranging from agricultural projects to bioprospecting to renewable energy.
“What was evident is that the institution of traditional leadership understands that professionalisation is necessary for rural businesses in the form of SMMEs and cooperatives to become part of the mainstream economy.”
“The traditional leaders who spoke presented their vision of ‘developmental monarchs’, who see themselves as not just custodians of heritage but also as drivers of economic prosperity and progress. They have identified several projects and economic opportunities that will create jobs and improve livelihoods in rural areas,” said the President.

Meanwhile, traditional leaders have expressed their willingness to play an active part in the land reform process.

Since 2018, traditional leaders have made around 1,500,000 hectares of communal land available for development, and it is hoped this will increase in future.
“To develop a coordinated and sustainable strategy, we have agreed to hold a Presidential Land Summit in the next year. This will discuss pressing issues around land reform and its impact on communal land, much of which is located in rural areas,” said President Ramaphosa.


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